11 August 2012     

Hogwash

By Wise Owl


In June I went to the Giant’s Causeway with two friends from Sheffield. The new visitors’ centre was still unfinished, but I believe the National Trust were heading for an opening date of 17 July.
     As with other issues in our part of the world, controversy was not far away. For reasons only known to themselves, the National Trust has allowed a section of the exhibition to be given over to the creationist theory, a belief that the world is only six thousand years old.
     As you can imagine, this decision didn’t go unnoticed, and whilst I don’t know if it was covered in the other two major local newspapers, the Irish News certainly did cover it, in the form of three full articles and two other mentions.
     First off the mark was comedian Jake O’Kane, on 13 July, followed by Patrick Murphy on 14 July, then Newton Emerson on 28 July, Tom Kelly 30 July, and finally Roy Garland on 6 August.
     All bar Garland were critical of the Trust and creationism in general. O’Kane kicked off his piece by stating that he “didn’t want to flog a dead dinosaur,” but he posed the question to the National Trust: “What were they thinking? Were they thinking?” He also asked: “Better still, why did they feel the need to parlay with the Caleb Foundation, a mysterious collection of Evangelical and Free Presbyterian minsters?”
     He finally asks whether political pressure was put on the Trust. He writes that none of these questions were answered, but an “inane” statement was put out basically saying that it was a reflection that the Causeway “plays a role in the historical debate about the formation of the earth, and that for some people this debate continues today.”
     O’Kane’s response was that the debate continues “only in the church halls of fundamental Christians.” As far as O’Kane is concerned, the debate was “settled 154 years ago with the publication of Darwin’s Origin of the Species.
     He makes the point: how can you debate with people who argue that the world is only six thousand years old “and humans lived with dinosaurs down the street.” He makes the rather humorous comment that for these people “The Flintstones” was a documentary.
     He finishes by stating that the vast majority believe in evolution, and that “we’re lucky” that we have every serious scientist in our camp, “whereas the creationists have the Caleb Foundation, Mervyn Storey and Nelson McCausland.”
     Storey is chairperson of the Stormont Ministry of Education, and McCauseland is Minister for Social Development.
     In his article, Patrick Murphy also throws in the name of the Minister of Health, Edwin Poots, and poses the question, “How can a health minister reject science?” He also refers to the Trust’s line about an ongoing debate, claiming it is a “non-existent” argument, that science is based on proof and does not do debate: “it does not have to.”
     He also makes the point that whilst creationists argue the six thousand years bit, science has proved that the first Irish inhabitants settled near Coleraine nine thousand ago, so “you can either wonder how people existed before the Earth was formed or recognise that fundamentalists are seriously deluded.”
     Tom Kelly refers to “zany Ulster creationists,” who are determined to turn Northern Ireland into some form of “Christian Disneyland.” For some, he writes, the Causeway is proof of Noah’s flood.
     This theme is taken up by Murphy, who accuses the National Trust of using public money to suggest the same, “when Noah apparently placed two members from each of Earth’s millions of animal species on a home-made wooden boat.” He sardonically makes the comment, “No, I don’t know why the two polar bears did not eat Noah on their walk from the Arctic. Ring the National Trust: they will know.”
     It seems this kind of comment upset Roy Garland, who took the line on the creationist theory as “I do not agree with what you have to say but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it,” echoing, Voltaire. He headlined his piece: “Become critical friend rather than demonise.” This would seem to some as the utmost in naïveté when you look at the calibre of people plodding the creationist line.
     He didn’t particularly criticise any of the above I have mentioned but turned his attention to Richard Dawkins, who had referred to the “intellectual baboons of young-Earth creationism.” That comment obviously raises the question, Why single out baboons?
     He also has a go at Jeremy Paxman, who had recently called Old Testament literalists “stupid people” and dismissed Genesis as “hogwash.” The creationists invite that type of comment and certainly don’t deserve a “critical friend” with their hogwash.”

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